A casual look back at 2017

As much as I would like to post a video like I did last year, I don’t have all the right equipment to make the best video that I can, and it’s kind of a shame since I even picked out a theme song that I’d use if I ever got a podcast off the ground. I’m thinking of an intro using time-lapse…

Public Domain (Author: Nate Shepherd, 2016)

Possible plans aside, this may only be the second time I’ve done this, but I think I’ll make this a yearly thing – here are the top 5 most-viewed blog posts of 2017! (Click on the titles to jump into those posts)

5. Humanity bites

CC-BY-SA-40 (Author: Jonny Velasco, 2017)

Blogs about food and nutrition research are often the most popular here in science.casual, so I really shouldn’t be surprised that this made it. On the other hand, really, guys!?

Horror aside, the research is about whether or not cannibalism was done in the Paleolithic (the Early Stone Age) for nutrition, thus the researchers compared the nutritional values of humans against other animals that they could’ve hunted. Turns out there’s better options than humans for nutrition, like giant deer, mammoths, even beavers.

The take-home message: hunt with your bros, don’t hunt them.

4. For the love of cat

Public Domain (Author: Baillard, 2015)

You’re on the Internet, so  anything regarding cats is going to be popular, although to be fair to dogs, it was popular last year.

The authors wanted to know if cats responded more to food, scents, toys, or human interaction. If they know this, perhaps there’s a way to train cats (instead of the common belief that they training you). They found that cats don’t often respond to being called (I have some contradicting evidence for that, but that’s me), they prefer to play, they love being petted, and getting treats. Big surprise, we know, but now we have evidence thanks to the scientific method and an fMRI. You think your cat doesn’t like wearing outfits, try getting them to wear electrode caps.

The take-home message: you know what your cats like already, they’re not all judgmental jerks.

3. Into fat air

Public Domain (Author: Kati, 2015)

Despite being rather late in the year, this got quite a few views. Did I catch a few guilty consciences? Or maybe I’m projecting…?

This nifty bit of research was carried out to see if chemicals found in household dust that doesn’t make you fat per se, but rather produce triglycerides that may contribute to fat production in the human body. I’m going to keep that statement as it is – may contribute – because the study was done on cell extracts from mice. I’m not sure at the moment how this may directly impact you, dear casual reader, unless you are a mouse (and if you are a mouse, your ability to read this blog is impressive, although I suggest going into hiding to avoid cats and scientists). The researchers found that some chemicals often associated with household fire retardants contribute to disturbances to the endocrine system. Hormones get out of whack, produces triglycerides, which may be stored as fat.

Take home message: man or mouse, clean your house! (mind the cats either way)

2. Bacteria and our daily bread

Public Domain (Author: Ulrike Mai, 2016)

Yes, yes, clean eating and low-carb diets and all that, yes, yes, yes. Guess what – people still like bread! Goes well with certain coffees too! I could cut out all bread from my diet, but I prefer to not be miserable.

The study looked at how the type of bread – sourdough or white – affects the gut microbiome of several individuals who were invited to the study to consume bread (college students reading this blog: all the more reason to pay attention to nutrition studies happening at your institution, you can score free food!!!). Turns out it doesn’t, but don’t write off a ‘nothing’ result as a waste of resources – after all, now we know what works and what doesn’t. However, there were differences between people when they consumed any kind of bread, which is more of a reflection of their microbiomes rather than what bread they had.

Also in the article (not the blog post, but the article itself): the nerdiest recipe for sourdough bread. If you want to blow someone’s mind, give them that recipe if they ask you how you bake bread.

The take-home message: enjoy your bread as you like and don’t let anyone who isn’t a licensed professional dietitian tell you otherwise.

1. Pun-intended consequences

(Author: unknown, thankfully)

It may be a coincidence that the first post of 2017 is also the most-viewed post of 2017. It may also be that my greater audience share the same sense of humor as dads and scientists.

According to the researchers, there has not been a lot of research in how puns are processed in the human brain, so they’re going to take it upon themselves. Most of the people in the sample missed the pun (lucky them). They also found that much of the processing involved the left side of the brain, where the language center is located. Not really a surprise, but here’s a good bit of information: both sides of your brain are actually in play when you get slapped with a pun. So isn’t that nice – someone gives you a pun, all you get is your mind blown. I wonder how many motor neurons fire up, especially the ones that get sent down your arm and cause you to bury your face in your hands…

Oh, and another thing: this study was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Any researchers reading this blog, I hope this gives you hope for getting your study funded.

The take-home message: puns and jokes are dangerous weapons to the unready mind, so please use them wisely.

And that is how I’m going to end 2017. Research articles are still coming down the pike, quite a few of them with Open Access licenses. I’ll be here as well, reading research articles and drinking a lot of coffee (if possible, maybe even have a pastry or something). Stay tuned for more developments and scientific snark in 2018, and have yourselves a happy New Year, dear casuals!

Featured Image: CC-BY-SA-NC-40 (Author: Jonny Velasco, 2016)


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